FLAC says report recommendations will make house repossessions easier

Wednesday 15 January 2014 12.04
The report called for a more structured framework in dealing with cases of house repossession
The report called for a more structured framework in dealing with cases of house repossession

The Free Legal Advice Centres has said that recommendations by an expert group will make it easier, in terms of court procedures, for house repossessions to take place.

It follows yesterday's publication by the Department of Justice of the report of the Expert Group on Repossessions.

The report called for a more structured framework in dealing with cases of repossession, leading to greater efficiency and more consistent case management standards.

It wanted repossession documentation to be standardised across different lenders.

FLAC Senior Policy Researcher Paul Joyce told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that implementation of the recommendations would cut down waiting lists and waiting times as well as streamlining the processes to make it, possibly, more difficult for borrowers to oppose repossession applications.

Mr Joyce said: "It's deeply worrying. At this point there are close on 60,000 accounts that have been in arrears for over a year.

"30,000 of those have been in arrears for over two years. The average arrears figure on those cases is over €40,000.

"These are the very intractable cases. The Central Bank has set these mortgage arrears resolution target figures for the lenders.

"There is an increase taking place in the number of permanent reschedules, but we don't think we've got to the really, really, difficult cases.

"A lender can declare a mortgage to be unsustainable and may bring legal proceedings within three months."

He continued: "The appeals mechanism under the code is poor, including a right to refer the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman who has indicated that he does not think he has the power to interfere with the commercial discretion of lenders.

"Once you get to the courts, there is no civil legal aid available, effectively, for borrowers to defend their position."

An advocacy group for people in debt has also said it is inevitable there will be a rise in repossessions this year.

Ross Maguire, of New Beginnings, said some banks have taken a particularly aggressive approach to people in financial difficulty.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’ Rourke Mr Maguire said thousands of properties will be repossessed in 2014. 

Mr Maguire said: "People who are facing repossession are those who cannot afford a mortgage based on the current value of the property.

“If you are in that situation and it is not going to change in the foreseeable future, like six months, you do face repossession.

“What kind of level that is is hard to know but it is certainly thousands and whether it's over 10,000 remains to be seen"